One of the hot topics that get a lot of media coverage, particularly among would-be parents, is fertility. In fact, the entertainment field is replete with stories of 40-something celebrities who are pregnant or delivering babies.
But the truth is, those are an exception to the rule. “Many people don’t fully understand how much their fertility declines with age,” explains Dr. David Adamson in a feature which appeared in Huffington Post. “The supposed proliferation of older women giving birth – often without disclosing they used eggs from much younger donors – may give those who want to start a family a false sense of security.”
Fertility, by definition, is the natural capability to produce offspring. “Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilization and carrying a pregnancy to term),” notes Wikipedia. “A lack of fertility is infertility which a lack of fecundity would be called sterility.”
When a man and a woman mate, it may result in pregnancy (although not often). “Getting pregnant (conception) happens when a man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg,” says the website of NHS Choices. “For some women, this happens quickly, but for others, it can take longer. Out of every 100 couples trying for a baby, 80-90 will pregnant within one year. The rest will take longer, or may need help to conceive.”
According to the website, an egg lives for about 12-24 hours after being released. For pregnancy to happen, the egg must be fertilized by a sperm within this time. “Sperm can live up to seven days inside a woman’s body,” it says. “So, if you’ve had sex in the days before ovulation, the sperm will have had to time to travel up the fallopian tubes to ‘wait’ for the egg to be released.”
Another website, yourfertility.org.au, says pregnancy is technically only possible during the five days before ovulation through the day of ovulation. “If a woman has sex six or more days before she ovulates, the chance she will get pregnant is virtually zero,” it says. “If she has sex five days before she ovulates, her probability of pregnancy is about 10%.”
The probability of pregnancy rises steadily until the two days before and including the day of ovulation. “For those women who are not aware of their ‘fertile window’ or when they ovulate, sexual intercourse is recommended every 2 to 3 days to help optimize their chance of conceiving,” the website suggests.
An article which appeared in Parenting also suggests to women to step up sex before ovulation. An egg, as stated earlier, survives for only 12-24 hours after ovulation. “So if you begin to ovulate in the morning and wait until nighttime to have sex, the egg may lose its viability by the time the sperm gets to it,” it notes.
But don’t do sex because you really want to have a baby; do it, because you enjoy doing it. As Dr. Felicia Stewart, co-author of Understanding Your Body: Every Woman’s Guide to Gynecology and Health, puts it: “The most important thing to remember is to keep sex fun.”
Medical scientists claim both the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg play a part in determining the gender of a baby. “Every normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes (23 pairs), except for the male sperm and female eggs, the 23 chromosomes from the father join with the 23 from the mother, making 46 in total,” the website of NHS Choices explains.
Chromosomes, if you are to know, “are tiny threadlike structures that each carry about 2,000 genes.” A baby’s inherited characteristics – among them, hair and eye color, blood group, height and build – come from genes.
A fertilized egg contains one sex chromosomes from its mother and another from its father. “The sex chromosome from the mother’s egg is always the same and is known as X chromosome, but the sex chromosome from the father’s sperm may be an X or a Y chromosome,” the website explains.
Now, if the egg is fertilized by a sperm containing an X chromosome, the baby is most likely a girl (XX). But if the sperm contains a Y chromosome, the baby is definitely a boy (XY).
But whether it is a boy or a girl, both would-be parents should be as healthy as possible. For man and woman, they must eat a healthy balanced diet and stop smoking (if they do smoke). A woman is also advised to take a folic acid supplement. In addition, she should know the risks of alcohol during pregnancy.